Sunday, April 26, 2020

I ran 90 miles this week. Here's what I learned.

After running 26.2 miles on Monday to commemorate the Boston Marathon that never happened, I proceeded to run a 90-mile week. The idea to run 90 miles in one week came from my coach. The idea to start it off with a marathon was mine. Together, we make a crazy team!

Why run a 90 mile week? With no races on the calendar, my coach thought it would be a good way to challenge myself and also discover what I was capable of. I wasn't trying to make any fitness gains. In order to do that, I would have to string multiple high mileage weeks together, combined with marathon-specific workouts. Rather, I was trying to see how my body would respond to the 90-mile week and "learn" how to do it safely.

If I do end up running a 90-mile week in future training cycles, I most likely will not kick it off with 26.2 miles on a Monday. But even still, I think my experience will translate to future cycles.

Also, there is no better time to try this than right now:

  • The weather is still cool enough to push myself (I would not attempt this in the summer)
  • I don't have to physically go to work, which means I have extra time in the mornings
  • I don't have to physically go to work, which means I can wear recovery boots while working
  • I'm not training for anything in particular, so my training doesn't have to be targeted
Without having any commitments aside from working from home, I had the luxury of trying something new. I was confident in my ability to achieve this goal, but I wasn't going to injure myself in the process. If something felt strained or "off" I would shut it down and not risk it. I always pay close attention to how I am feeling during heavy training, and this week was no exception.

First, let's see how 90 miles looks in the grand scheme of my training over the past year. While my mileage was relatively low the week before, it did include a 5K time trial on Thursday, in which I pushed very hard.

Weekly mileage for the past year
As you can see from the above graph, that 90 mile week all the way to the right is by far the highest. It's important to note that I have been consistently running in the 60s and 70s for a long time, so it's not like I was able to do this out of the blue. I have been logging this type of mileage for at least the past 3 years. I have been running 7 days a week for the 4 years, so this is something that I have built up to over time. I do not recommend that someone who typically runs 40-50 miles a week try this.

Monday: 26.2 miles at 8:23 average pace
I wrote a detailed blog post about this so I won't go into the details here. I did spend the rest of the day prioritizing recovery. I was dehydrated so I drank plenty of water. I was thirsty for the three hours following run! I also spent 30 minutes in my Rapid Reboot compression boots. I wasn't really hungry for the rest of the day. We ordered a Mellow Mushroom pizza as my post-race lunch but I wasn't hungry for it until about 2-3 hours after the run. And even then I only had one slice. For dinner I had two slices of pizza plus a salad. This was really not much food, but I didn't have a huge appetite. Greg and I took a walk around the neighborhood in the evening. I think this helped in getting blood flowing through my legs.

Unfortunately, I didn't sleep very well that night, probably due to the adrenaline of the experience. Or maybe because I had a soda late in the day. I had a Pepsi shortly after CIM and I realized how satisfying soda is post race. I try to limit my soda (I had gone cold turkey for six months last year!) but I do treat myself occasionally.

Tuesday: 7 miles at 9:31 average pace
Weather: 46 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze
Shoes: Brooks Ghost

Tuesday, April 21
It was definitely a shock to myself to run the day after a marathon. I wore my tall compression socks for calf support and they felt nice. My legs were not "sore" in the traditional sense, but they were stiff and dead feeling. The only "watch out" that I noticed was that my right Achilles tendon was achey. But the more I ran, the better it felt. The first mile was definitely the hardest. I felt pretty good for miles 2-5, but then my legs got tired for the last two miles. My energy level was high and aside from my beat up legs, I felt good.

I took an Epsom salt bath and spent more time in the Rapid Reboot. During the Epsom Salt bath, I noticed that I had a blister on my big toe. I hadn't really felt it before then, but I noted that I should put a blister Band-aid on it for the next day.

My legs felt tired and achey all day, but there was no one particular area that hurt more than it "should". This is where knowing the difference between a normal ache and an injury ache is important. Everything just sort of felt equally tender and abused-- I couldn't pinpoint any real problem areas in particular.

Wednesday: 10 miles at 9:21 average pace
Weather: 38 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze
Shoes: adidas Ultra Boost 20

I tried wearing the same Nikes that I ran the marathon in, but I had to take them off after the first few steps. My toes were still tender from the marathon and I needed a shoe with a roomier toe box. When I put on the adidas Ultra Boost, it was like a massage for my feet. My toes had plenty of room to spread out and the cushion was so plush.  I wore compression capri tights, which felt great on my hips, quads, and hamstrings.

Greg ran most of this run with me and I was happy he stayed with me at my slower pace. Once again, the first mile was the hardest and then my legs loosened up the more I ran. I had a good amount of energy and I was encouraged by how smooth the run felt.

I showered and had a 9:15am conference call for work. After that call was done, a wave of fatigue came over me. I couldn't keep my eyes open. Sleep overtook me and I was out cold for an hour. When I woke up, I felt like I could barely move. I was extremely groggy. But eventually I got going and continued with the workday. I honestly felt like crap for the rest of the day and I realized that my lack of sleep on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights had caught up with me. Allergies were also a factor, as I was sneezing my head off. I drank a ton of water and I ate really healthy foods. I was in bed at 7:30 and asleep by 7:45.

I told myself that if I still felt crappy in the morning, I would end my quest for a 90-mile week.

Thursday: 10 miles, with 6 tempo at 7:36 average pace
Weather:  45 degrees, overcast, no wind
Thursday, April 23
Shoes: adidas adizero Tempo 8

I woke up feeling refreshed after 9+ hours of sleep, so I figured I would continue on with the program. I couldn't believe my coach put a tempo run on the schedule! I told myself that tempo meant "faster than easy" and I would solely go on effort, not pace. I warmed up for 2.6 miles and then started the "tempo" run.

I managed to run splits of 7:48, 7:44, 7:36, 7:31, 7:33, 7:25. I am not sure how I did that just three days post marathon, but I did. It was hard and I felt like I was running a pace of about 6:50-7:00 towards the end. The cool down was pretty rough, but I managed to knock out 1.4 miles to get to 10 for the day.

My legs felt totally dead afterwards, but I was proud at how well they held up. I was tired and lethargic for the rest of the day, but it wasn't nearly as bad as Wednesday. Thank goodness I didn't have to look presentable for work or go anywhere!

Friday: 10 miles at 9:21 average pace
Weather: 50 degrees and light rain + light wind
Shoes: adidas Ultra Boost 20

This run was pretty much an exact replica of Wednesday. Same shoes, same pace. Starting at around 10:00 and gradually getting faster with no sub 9:00 miles. The weather made it unenjoyable, but thankfully Greg joined me for the first half. My energy level was high but my legs had no pep in them.

As for my fatigue during the day, it was much improved by Friday. My energy level returned to normal. I attribute this to drinking loads of water + electrolytes in the previous days, and finally getting caught up on sleep. Plus, the marathon was now 5 days behind me so I was generally starting to be less beat up.

Saturday: 19 miles at 8:38 average pace
Weather: 47-53 degrees, partly cloudy with no wind
Shoes: Nike Odyssey React 2
Saturday, April 25

I had no idea how this run was going to go. My coach had 18 on the schedule, but I decided to run 19 instead for COVID-19. I try to be "cute" whenever I can. I called it "Flatten the Curve of COVID-19 Miler" as a reason to run the flattest possible route. I had already paid my dues with hills on Monday and if this run was going to happen, I needed to minimize hills! My route had 293 feet of total gain, which is very little over 19 miles.

For this run, I prioritized fueling and hydration. I parked my car in a flat neighborhood that had many interweaving roads. I put a bottle of water + a bottle of Generation UCAN in the car, and made sure to drink early and often. Normally for an 18-miler I drink Generation UCAN beforehand but then I don't take any other fuel during the run. But I figured I would be going slower, which would mean more time spent running. I definitely did not want to crash.

I started out conservatively at a 9:11 pace for the first mile. I projected that my average pace for the run would be somewhere between 8:50-8:55. But I just "felt" my way through the run an ended up going faster without trying to. I decided I would hammer the last mile and dropped the pace down to 7:45. I never would have thought I could do that!

I'm not sure if it was the weather, my fueling, the hydration, or a combination of these, but I felt really good the whole time. I tried napping afterwards, but I wasn't tired enough to fall asleep! I felt really good the rest of the day and I even did laundry! That night, Greg and I treated ourselves to curbside takeout from Sweetwater, a delicious local restaurant that brews its own beer.

Sunday: 8 miles at 8:48 average pace
Weather: 50 degrees and raining
Shoes: Brooks Ghost

This run went smoothly and a lot easier than anticipated. I was expecting to run it in the 9:00's but my legs carried me faster. I was feeling so good that I ran the final mile in 8:15, capping off a 90.2 mile week. I could have gone farther with no issues, but I decided to stick with the plan. I'm guessing that the 19-miler didn't take that much out of me, since I ran it at a conservative pace. Typically I run long runs at pace of 7:55-8:10, so going slower helped preserve my legs for Sunday.

I ran 90 miles in one week at an average pace of 8:46.

And I feel good today! I definitely plan to take it easy next week, although I feel like I could handle a "normal" week of training without any problems. Best to quit while I'm ahead and feeling good. Here are some interesting stats:

  • During Saturday's long run, I hit 25,000 miles in my training log, which I have been keeping since January 2008.
  • I am now on day 104 of my run streak, averaging 8.3 miles a day since Jan. 14
  • My longest streak is 122 days, so I have not beaten that yet
  • Half of the mileage was completed in two runs (26.2 + 19) both in the same pair of shoes

What I learned
Primarily, I learned that if I am sensible with my paces, I can handle a 90-mile week without running doubles. However, this would be much more of a challenge if I had to commute to a job every day and get dressed up for that job. I still think I could do it, but I would be more stressed with the
logistics, and any kind of stress wears the body down even more.

Sleep is key! My mid-week bout of fatigue was no joke. I was so tired on Wednesday. Once I caught up on sleep everything was okay, but the sleep deficit was hurting me.

Hydration is key! I started the week dehydrated from my marathon. Of course, that was the warmest and most humid day of the week. Any other day of the week would have provided better conditions. But regardless, I need to stay on top of my water intake.

Warm epsom salt baths are amazing! I took a Dr. Teal's Epsom salt bath every day and they were so soothing. I really think this helped keep things loose. I could even multi-task by drinking water from the faucet.

Keep the easy runs easy. On my easy days, I let my body dictate my pace, not the Garmin. I would naturally speed up as my legs loosened and usually would feel better the more I ran.

In terms of aches and pains, the most achey thing all week was my mid to lower back. I kept asking Greg to massage it and I applied Salonpas patches. I really, really wanted to get a massage. It's better now than it was a few days ago. I think Thursday was the worst of it.

I wasn't noticeably more hungry than I normally am, but I was noticeably more thirsty.

Finally, the fact that I kicked all of this off with a 3:40:02 marathon means that I could run a marathon much faster than that! My endurance is really strong right now and the irony is that there not a single marathon in sight. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this challenge and I am glad I took the opportunity to run a lot before the weather gets too warm for me.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Heartbreak and Hills: The Virginia Boston Marathon

3:09am, April 20, 2020.

I am awake. I am still. Calm.

I am not in the Ritz Carlton Boston. I'm home. "The Ritz Clorlton" I think to myself, as I get up to go to the bathroom. I believe myself to be well hydrated, so having to go to the bathroom at 3:09am is not a surprise. With only one eye half open, I reach for the toilet paper. I realize I have pulled too hard and too much will come off the roll. I roll it back some and then tear it off. Just five weeks ago, I wouldn't have thought twice about using a few extra squares.

Back in the bed, I now have both eyes open. Staring at the darkness around me. Wondering where my Boston Marathon medal is right now. Have they even produced the medals yet? And if so, is mine in a box somewhere at the B.A.A. headquarters? The one that I was supposed to earn today. Where is it right now?

I'm actually pretty lucky. Not only do I have the health to run 26.2 miles today, but I have friends and family supporting me. People who have actually volunteered to spend 30 minutes of their day to be able to see me and cheer for me for about 20 seconds. Lisa. Cheryl. My mother. And of course, Greg.

The Ritz Clorlton is a nice place to be. The bed tops the one in Boston. I'm safe. I'm at peace. I never really grieved the loss of the Boston Marathon. Something that had defined my life for over seven years. From 2008-2015, I ate slept and drank Boston. It was what I lived for. One of my greatest passions. One of the things that got me through those hard years was the certainty that Boston wasn't going away. It would be there for me whenever I qualified. I had my whole life ahead of me to run it; there was no need to rush it. Boston's not going anywhere, I would tell myself.

But today, it went to Virginia. And this is my race report.

Before the Race
I fell back asleep at 4:00 and woke up for good at 5:00 naturally, without an alarm. I had slept soundly until about 3:00, which was decent, considering I went to sleep at 8:45. I went downstairs and had a salted bagel with peanut butter. I drank some water with it. I then proceeded to mix Generation UCAN with a little water to make a gel-like substance, which I put into a disposable baby food pouch. I then mixed another serving of UCAN with water and put that in a bottle to drink in the car on the way to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. Finally, I mixed one serving of UCAN Hydrate into my 24oz water bottle that I would carry with me.

All of this was followed by multiple trips to the bathroom as I continued to get ready. I wore a bright blue tank top and yellow shorts, along with a homemade Boston Marathon bib. I chose number 10262 because I thought that based on my qualifying time, my actual bib number would be in the high 9000's or the low 10,000's. I liked the idea of having 262 in the number, so I went with 10262. I qualified with a 3:15:34 in December 2018. It felt like a lifetime ago.

At the start line
Since I am not running the September race, I'll never get to run Boston with that bib. My qualifying time for 2021 is 3:22:23, so I will have a higher bib than I did in 2018. Unless I manage to PR a fall marathon.

Greg and I left the house at 6:45 for a target start time of 7:30. It took us about 30 minutes to arrive in Leesburg, where I would start at mile 31.4 of the W&OD trail. Once there, Greg took some photos and a video of me. I didn't feel nervous, but I was ready to get going. I knew I would see Greg on the course, plus Cheryl and then my mother at the end. Lisa unfortunately didn't feel well so she was smart to stay home!

It was 52 degrees with 69% humidity. Overcast. A light breeze that would be a sidewind the whole way. On my personal weather scale, I gave it a 7 out of 10 in my mind. But in retrospect, I think I will revise that to a 6 out of 10 because I am not acclimated to weather above 45 degrees with any kind of humidity.

Strategy and Course Profile
I did not taper for this run. In fact, I ran a 5K time trial on Thursday at a pace of 6:36! And last weekend, my long run was 15 miles. I was looking at this as a hard training run which did not require a taper.

As for my goal, I wanted to run a BQ time, which would be 3:40:00 or faster. That's a pace of 8:23, which is within my easy range. But my goal didn't stop there. I wanted to proceed to run a 90-mile week this week, which meant I couldn't trash my legs. I wanted to put out a solid effort without killing myself and needing to recover. I thought that if I was having a good day, I could run 3:30, which is an 8:00 pace, and just slightly faster than my "easy" pace. I thought that if I was having an okay day, I would be around 3:35.

I have run 20-milers at a pace of around 7:45 in the past in training, so I was pretty confident in my ability. Plus, my recent 10-mile time trial predicted a marathon time of 3:15, so a 3:35 should be doable without killing myself.

The plan was to run the first 6 miles in the low 8:20's and speed up from there. Once I got to the halfway point, I hoped to be sub 8:00 for rest of it.

I did not choose an easy course. According to Garmin, it had 789 feet of gain. According to Strava, it had 708 feet of gain. The Boston Marathon has 813 feet of gain, according to Strava. However, the Boston Marathon has a net elevation LOSS of 500 ft. Whereas my course had a net even elevation gain. Therefore, I consider this to be the hardest marathon course I have ever run! My other hilly marathons (CIM, Sugarloaf) all had net elevation losses, whereas my W&OD route was net even, with almost as much gain!

My Marathon Course Elevation: Miles 18-23 are all uphill, with a heartbreak hill to polish it off.
I would spend most of the run regretting my course profile choice. I started at mile 31.4 of the WOD and if I had started 8 miles west (the trail is 40+ miles long), I could have avoided that huge climb and ended on that downhill. But I chose the part of the trail I was most familiar with.

Miles 1-7 (Leesburg & Ashburn)
Greg started a timer so he would know how long I had been running and at 7:30, said "Go!" I had to restrain myself from going too fast in the beginning. I felt great, the pace felt very easy and sustainable. I did not want to go under 8:20 during the first six miles, so I tried to keep it really controlled.

Mile 1, photo by Greg Clor
This part was relatively uneventful. I didn't see many people on the trail, which was good, but also kind of scary because I could be attacked with no one nearby to see. I wore my Apple Watch (in addition to my Garmin), which has a panic button feature, and I could also use it to call Greg. I bought the Apple Watch for this exact reason: potentially needing to make a phone call while running alone in an area that might not be safe. I could have worn my Aftershokz headphones, but I decided I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.

My hydration plan was the same as it always is in marathons and long runs: drink every 15 minutes. If it had been cooler (say, under 45 degrees) I would have probably filled my bottle with plain water. But since it was on the warmer side for me, I added a packet of UCAN Hydrate for extra electrolytes. On 20-milers in the winter, I can get away with running the last 10-12 miles of my long run without any water. At the Rehoboth Beach Marathon, where I ran 3:15, I didn't have any water from mile 15-finish.

The plan was to drink every 15 minutes, figuring that the 24oz bottle would last me until mile 14. And then I would see Greg at mile 20 who would have another bottle. Even though my strategy was to stay in the low 8:20s and not go under, I kept going a little bit under.

All elevation gains and losses are in feet:

Mile 1: 8:25 (13 gain, 57 loss)
Mile 2: 8:20 (59 gain,  0 loss)
Mile 3: 8:18 (23 gain, 25 loss)
Mile 4: 8:18 (26 gain, 34 loss)
Mile 5: 8:16 (0 gain, 25 loss)
Mile 6: 8:20 (40 gain, 38 loss)
Mile 7: 8:10 (0 gain, 40 loss)

Miles 8-13 (Sterling & Herndon)
Greg met me just as I was finishing up mile 7. Once we started running together, the trail became all uphill and I noticed that I was working much harder than I should be for the pace we were running. I
Mile 7, Photo by Greg Clor
chalked it up to being the constant climbing and I wasn't too worried that my easy pace felt like a strain. I should not have been working that hard at mile 8. But I was running on the edge of my easy/moderate range, so I continued to go with it.

Greg handed me my Generation UCAN gel at mile 10 and with it, I took a huge swig of water, I had been drinking every 15 minutes, but I wasn't taking big swigs. It was a 24oz bottle, and I was almost halfway done at 60 minutes, which meant I was only getting 3oz every 15 minutes. In my recent training runs, drinking this amount had worked well for me, but those had been much cooler and less humid days.

After about 3 miles, Greg turned around and ran back to the car. Time for a few downhill miles. I was really ready for them. I felt much better once I started running downhill. I did, however, abandon my hydration schedule because I was thirsty. I started drinking sooner than planned and my water bottle was almost empty when I got to the halfway point. That was not good. I'm normally not thirsty when I'm running. I knew that once you actually felt thirst, it was too late-- you were already dehydrated. Even during CIM when it was much more humid, I wasn't thirsty.

At mile 12.9 I knew to expect Cheryl. And there she was, jumping up and down waving with her fancy camera! She was wearing a mask and as I passed, she made sure to be 6 feet away. It was such a pick-me-up to see her.

Mile 8: 8:07 (65 gain, 0 loss) - no wonder easy pace felt hard!
Mile 9: 8:07 (56 gain, 9 loss)
Mile 10: 8:17 (45 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 11: 8:02 (13 gain, 44 loss)
Mile 12: 8:04 (14 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 13: 8:18 (22 gain, 16 loss)

Miles 14-20 (Reston & Vienna)
Mile 13, Photo by Cheryl Young
Shortly after the halfway point, I walked! Crazy, right? I don't know what came over me, but I was tired and I wanted to walk. I finished off my bottle and tossed it. I also had my first Maurten gel earlier than planned so I would be able to have it with water. I would see Greg in a little over 6 miles and he would have a new bottle. No big deal - I can run a half marathon with no water and be fine. Well, okay, that's when it's in the low 30's.

I refused to believe that walking during the 14th mile meant I was in trouble. I just needed a little break, that's all. It was only a 10-second walk. Maybe shorter.

I knew that I would get a nice long stretch of downhill and when I did that really perked me up. Wow! Everything felt great and I was cruising along faster than expected. This was awesome. I must have just hit a rough patch at the halfway point. That happens, right? And then you recover. I was recovering nicely.

After the downhill stretch, I knew that the next six miles would be one long climb. See the elevation chart above. I felt awesome at the bottom of that big hill, but now it was time to really rally!

Just three miles to Greg. And water. Greg would have water. Ooooh- look at that stream. How nice it would be to drink from that! Soooo thirsty!

Two more miles to Greg and my water. Just rally for two miles! It's uphill. It's going to hurt. But then. . . WATER! I was really, really impressed with how I handled miles 19 and 20. Both were uphill, I was so thirsty, but I kept pushing. Mile 19 was 8:09 with 58 feet of gain and no loss! Yes! Mile 20 doesn't look so good on paper because I stopped for the water at 19.9. but I was running a pace of 8:15 up until that point.

Mile 14: 8:19 (43 gain, 35 loss) - included some walking!
Mile 15: 8:08 (50 gain, 37 loss)
Mile 16: 7:47 (0 gain, 86 loss)
Mile 17: 7:52 (0 gain, 86 loss)
Mile 18: 8:05 (35 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 19: 8:09 (58 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 20: 8:49  (49 gain, 0 loss) - included complete stop for water

Miles 21- Finish (Falls Church & Arlington)
I was so happy to see Greg and get my water. As I said above, I pretty much stopped dead in my tracks and gulped down a third of the bottle. It was hard to get going again, but once we did, that's when the cramps started. When you drink so much water really quickly and you are running,
Mile 20, Photo by Greg Clor
cramping is bound to happen. This is why I always take those small 3oz swigs.

Greg was worried and told me I could stop if I wanted but there was no way I was stopping. I would finish no matter what. Despite my cramping, I drank even more water. I knew the water was causing the cramps but my thirst was so powerful. It wasn't like it was that warm I think it had climbed to 53 or 54 degrees at that point, but still somewhat humid.

Greg stuck with me for about a mile so that he would have time to run back to the car and see me finish. I knew he was worried about me, but I wasn't worried about me. It was really just this uphill battle and as soon as the downhill came, I would be okay again. At mile 22 I took my second Maurten gel with some more water, and then tossed the bottle so my arms would be free to really grind it out. It took me 13 miles to drink 24 oz, and then later in the run it took me 2 miles to drink 12 ounces. Wow.

Mile 21 clocked in at 9:56 and Mile 22 was 9:43. At least the trend was moving in the right direction.

I battled the cramps for a little bit, but as suspected, my world became so much brighter once the downhill came. I started gaining momentum, and then BOOM! My first intersection where cars were not stopping. This had not been an issue at any previous intersection, but of course, once I had momentum going and was running strong, I was forced to stop. I did not stop my Garmin because I wanted a true finish time. So I was losing time, so annoyed because I knew I was within seconds of getting my BQ time. Every second mattered and these f'ing cars were taking it away from me.

It seemed like eternity before I could cross, but in reality it was probably just 10 seconds. That's a lot, though, when you are on the borderline of meeting a time goal. My lap pace for that mile had been 8:30 and now it was 9:30.

Before the real downhill came "Heartbreak Hill". In the elevation chart above you can see it's the highest point on the graph. This involved some more walking. It was steep. I was exhausted. I imagined myself running up the real Heartbreak Hill at mile 21 of Boston. That one has much better crowd support.

With just three miles to go, I tried to bring my average pace down to 8:22. I could see that it was 8:24, which equated to 3:40:xx. And my plan was working out great. I was rallying, I was working hard. I was being mentally strong. No more walking. Just fast running down the hills. Mile 24 was 8:07 and mile 25 was 8:09. Yes! But then, things got dicey.

At 25.6 there was a trail detour that interrupted my rhythm and was unfortunately uphill. And then came an intersection. I waited and waited and waited. Finally I crossed, only to see a "trail closed"
sign. Seriously? My Garmin read 25.9 I was so close. I had to stop the Garmin. I didn't know where to go. I needed to look around and get my bearings. After about 10 seconds, I saw two cyclists and I followed them, restarting the Garmin. All of my momentum was lost. Mile 26 was a disappointing 8:37. I had been running a pace of 8:10 until all the stopping. According to my Garmin data, my moving pace was 8:07 for that mile, so I must have stopped for 30 seconds waiting to cross the intersection. UGH.

Once the detour ended and I was back on the trail, I gunned it. I wanted to run 26.3 miles to be fair but then I encountered a "trail closed" sign right at 26.2 so there I stopped. 3:40:02. Sigh.

Mile 21: 9:56 (63 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 22: 9:43 (31 gain, 35 loss)
Mile 23: 9:38 (74 gain, 26 loss) Heartbreak hill!
Mile 24: 8:07 (0 gain, 93 loss)
Mile 25: 8:09 (0 gain, 38 loss)
Mile 26: 8:37 (8 gain, 37 loss) moving time was 8:07!!
Last 0.2: 7:36 pace

After the Race
So, officially I ran a 3:40:02. But that includes about 40 seconds worth of stopping at intersections. However, I also stopped the Garmin for 10 seconds when I was trying to figure out where to go. So, in all fairness, it was probably 3:39:32. But then again, I didn't run 26.3 miles which is what a typical marathon is due to all the weaving. So, who knows really?!

At the end of the day, I am not going to sweat those 2 seconds. I know I can run a BQ time as a training run while clearly dehydrated, and then not require a week to recover. That's pretty bad ass! (Well, I plan to run tomorrow and my legs are not destroyed. Hopefully that happens.)

My mother was waiting at the finish line. I hadn't seen her since February, so that was really nice. She lives just 2 miles from there, so it worked out well. We kept social distance though, with her being in the "at-risk" population. Not like she wanted to hug salty, smelly me. Definitely the 6 feet thing worked in her favor!

Greg wrapped a towel around me and I asked for another bottle of water. I was still very thirsty. We said goodbye to my mother and drove home. The thirst continued into my Epsom Salt bath where I found myself drinking water directly from the faucet. I wasn't hungry and I didn't eat for almost two hours. But finally I had a slice of pizza, more water (mixed with lime juice) and a Pepsi.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
Where to start. I have so many mixed emotions. I never once cried about the real Boston Marathon being canceled. But I reserve the right to now that the day has come and gone, and I never had that experience. Today was about grinding it out when I didn't feel great. My body clearly didn't show up for me and I learned a good lesson in hydration. I'm glad that didn't happen in a real race.

The difference between today and CIM was that I knew CIM would be warm and humid so I drank way more the day before and I drank more early in the race. The key is really drinking early, which I didn't do. I think I ditched my water bottle at about the same point in CIM, but the huge difference was I drank more of that bottle early on, instead of having it all right at the end.

I wasn't tapered for this race. I ran a 5K time trial on Thursday in 20:34 (6:36 pace). It's good to know I can run a marathon so soon after a 5K!

My legs held up really well. They were not the limiting factor, and even on the hills they didn't really bother me. I suspect I will be able to run my planned 7 miles tomorrow (slowly) provided that I continue to re-hydrate all day today.

Running a marathon is really all about not giving up on yourself when your body is telling you to. My body told me to stop many times today and I did give in from time to time. But the walking never lasted long and all my miles were sub 10:00. I had such amazing support from Greg, my mother,  Cheryl, and all my friends who sent me messages of encouragement beforehand.

I don't have my medal. But I do have an experience that enriched my life in a different way and has made me stronger.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Running Shoe Review + Sports Bras: adidas and Brooks

I recently had the opportunity to add four new running shoes to my rotation. RoadRunner Sports has been gifting me a new pair of shoes each month in exchange for sharing them with my Instagram followers. They did not ask me to formally review these shoes on my blog, but I enjoy reviewing shoes, so I am going to do that anyway.

RoadRunner sports also sent me two new sports bras. I will review those at the end for the pure love of reviewing gear! I will be reviewing:
  • The adidas Adizero Adios 5
  • The adidas Ultra Boost 20
  • The Brooks Glycerin 18
  • The Brooks Ghost 12
  • The Brooks Dare Crossback bra
  • The Brooks Dare Scoopback bra
These are all neutral shoes. I chose adidas and Brooks shoes from RoadRunner sports because even though I had never worn these particular models, these brands work for me based on fit and heel drop. For example, I would never try a Hoka or a Saucony shoe because they don't make shoes with a heel drop higher than 8mm. I need a drop of 10-12mm due to my history with achilles tendonitis. Asics and New Balance shoes tend to be too wide for me. 

Adidas Adizero Adios 5 Review
  • Current mileage: 28.5
  • Number of runs: 3
  • Sizing: Runs 1/2 size large compared to Brooks and Mizuno.
  • Biggest benefit: light and fast
  • Biggest drawback: feet hurt after 8 miles of racing
  • Current Price: $139.95 ($125.96 for VIP members)
  • Link at RoadRunner Sports
Of the four shoes I am reviewing, this is the only shoe that would be used for speed work or racing. This shoe is lightweight and responsive. It has a good amount of energy return, and it used to be what many of the elites wore for marathons until the rise of the Nike Vaporfly. 

adidas Adizero Adios 5
Previously, I had worn the Adios 3 and 4, so I was excited to get my feet inside the new model. According to the website, this new model is "now even lighter with a full-length Celermesh upper inspired by sprint spikes." However, when I weighed the shoe on a kitchen scale it was slightly heavier than a brand new pair of the adios 4. Both shoes were the same size. The color options are kind of boring: you can choose from black or grey. I love black with white stripes (for obvious reasons) but it would be nice to have a more colorful option.

I wore this shoe for a 10K race and the Virtual Cherry Blossom 10-miler last weekend. The shoe performed really well during the the 10K, but I didn't like it for the 10-miler. The bottoms of my feet began to hurt at mile 8. To contrast, I wore the Adios 4 for the One City Half Marathon and my feet felt awesome the entire time.

Ultimately, I prefer the previous model of this shoe (version 4). That said, I still do like the Adios 5 because it's a lightweight, fast shoe that fits me well. I will continue to wear it for speed work, but probably on days where the total run is less than 10 miles.

Adidas Ultra Boost 20 Review
  • Current mileage: 31.2
  • Number of runs: 4
  • Sizing: Runs 1/2 size large compared to Brooks and Mizuno.
  • Biggest benefit: plush comfort
  • Biggest drawback: heavy and bulky
  • Current Price: $143.95 ($129.56 for VIP members)
  • Link at RoadRunner Sports
The adidas Ultra Boost was a new shoe for me. I had not worn any of the previous models and I didn't know what to expect. I know that this shoe has a reputation for being a premium model, as the
adidas Ultra Boost 20
price when it first came out was $180. It also seems that this shoe has a cult-like following. Based on the reaction I got on my Instagram, there were some die-hard Ultra Boost fans. 

The minute I put this shoe on I noticed that it was super luxe and cushioned. Walking around felt amazing. It took a little time to get used to running in the shoe, though. It's bulky and heavy and even though I sized down by half a size, it still felt a little big on me. But the more I ran in it, the more I liked it. I think it's the perfect shoe for recovery runs because it forces you to go slowly. At least, that's how I feel in it. I've found that I really enjoy wearing the shoe because the ride is so plush and smooth, and if I am also listening to a mellow song, I just coast along and everything feels great.

I would definitely recommend this shoe for recovery runs for that reason. It feels really good and reminds you that you are in recovery mode. Also it looks really sleek and comes in some nice color options. 

Brooks Glycerin 18 Review
  • Current mileage: 8.1
  • Number of runs: 1
  • Sizing: True to size, but I got the narrow width
  • Biggest benefit: plush comfort
  • Biggest drawback: not responsive
  • Current Price: $149.95
  • Link at RoadRunner Sports
The Brooks Glycerin was another shoe that was completely new to me. I had not worn any of the previous models. However, I knew that Brooks shoes generally worked for me if they were available in a narrow width (2A). If you generally wear Nike, Mizuno, and adidas because you have a narrow foot, you'll want to buy the narrow width in Brooks. 

The only drawback with the narrow width is that you only get one color choice. It's usually a decent choice, but also kind of boring. I like a lot of variety in my footwear and it's such a tease to see all the fun color options that Brooks offers for the non-narrow widths! 

I found this shoe to be very similar to the adidas Ultra Boost 20. It was on the heavier side, plush, and difficult to pick up the pace in. I have only worn it once-- for an easy 8 miler. I found that when I started to pickup the pace and run under 8:40, it was not so easy to do. But that's okay, because this shoe is meant for easy runs! Similar to the Ultra Boost, I will probably only wear these shoes on recovery days, or for easy runs when I am feeling like I want to be on the slower end of my easy range. 

One issue I noticed with the Brooks Glycerin was that my posterior tibialis tendonitis (arch pain) started bothering me about 5 miles in. And I felt it for nearly two miles. To me that indicates that this shoe has no stability (which it's not supposed to because it's neutral) and lacks arch support. The Ultra Boost, on the other hand, did not bother my arch whatsoever.

Brooks Glycerin 18 vs. Adidas Ultra Boost 20: I found these shoes to be equally as plush and cushioned. You'll have to grab the Ultra Boost on sale in order for the price to match the Brooks, though. The Glycerin is a little bit lighter and fit my foot better. However, the complete lack of arch support makes me want to keep this one out of the rotation until the summer when my injury has been behind me for longer. 

Brooks Ghost 12 Review
  • Current mileage: 74.7
  • Number of runs: 11
  • Sizing: True to size, but I got the narrow width
  • Biggest benefit: a versatile shoe: comfort + responsive
  • Biggest drawback: narrow widths should come in more colors
  • Current Price: $129.95
  • Link at RoadRunner Sports
Brooks Ghost 12
The Brooks Ghost has been part of my rotation for over a year now. I was first introduced to the Ghost at the end of 2018 and fell in love with the Ghost 11. I added this shoe to my rotation because I needed a highly cushioned shoe for my easy days that was also responsive and not too bulky. I had been wearing the Mizuno Wave Inspire for 5+ years and I stopped wearing it because it was too firm and the bottoms of my feet would hurt after 8 miles. I also had a gait analysis done and I learned that I was now a neutral runner. 

Anyway, the Ghost 12 is a great update to the 11 because it's virtually the same. Don't mess with a good thing. According to the website the new version has a "newly engineered mesh and 3D Fit print upper". I don't really know what that means, but I like the shoe a lot.

Brooks Ghost 12 vs. Brooks Glycerin 18: To me, the biggest difference is that the Ghost 12 is "easier" to run in. It's responsive, it allows me to pick up the pace, and it's nicely cushioned. The Glycerin is more luxe. It feels better to go walking in. That would explain the extra $20 in cost-- there's more cushion in the Glycerin. Some runners might prefer the Glycerin because it's plusher and softer. I will continue to use the Brooks Ghost for my easy runs, and save the Glycerins for recovery runs when I know I will be coasting along slowly.

Also I should note that the Ghost as a 12mm drop and the Glycerin has a 10mm drop. This could explain why my arch wasn't as happy in the Glycerin: a shoe with a relatively lower drop that's also extremely soft will provide no support for the arch. 

Shoe review conclusion
Adidas Adios 5 for speed work 8 miles or less
Adidas Ultra Boost 20 and Brooks Glycerin 18 for recovery runs
Brooks Ghost 12 for easy runs

That pretty much sums it up. These are all high-quality shoes that I will wear until they are worn out. Once they are retired, I will probably keep the Ultra Boost for walking around in, because they are simply delightful for that and I like the white color. The Glycerin would also be a good candidate for a walking shoe.

Now onto sports bras. . . 

The Brooks Dare Crossback Sports Bra Review
  • Sizing: Runs small
  • Biggest benefit: No hardware: all softness
  • Biggest drawback: runs small; not much coverage for a size D cup.
  • Current Price: $59.99
  • Link at RoadRunner Sports
If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I am constantly on the hunt for the perfect sports bra. The most perfect sports bra of all time was made by Athleta and discontinued two years ago. Nothing has ever compared to it, but some have come close.

As for the Brooks Dare Crossback bra, which is a completely new bra in 2020, I really like it! I love that this bra comes in actual bra sizes rather than small through large. I’m a size 32D so I got the size 32 C/D. I think this size would fit C cups much better because my girls don’t have a lot of coverage but it was still really comfortable.

The bra has no hooks or hardware of any kind. You can’t adjust it but I didn’t feel the need to adjust the straps. The crossback design allows you to easily slip it on and off. When I first wore this bra with the intention of reviewing it, I forgot I was wearing it. The bra wasn’t even noticeable for 2 miles! That’s how a sports bra should be. Very supportive and comfortable. It would recommend this bra for its style and comfort. If you wear a D cup or larger, there’s not a lot of coverage so you might not wear it without a shirt over it.

The Brooks Dare Scoopback Sports Bra Review
  • Sizing: True to size
  • Biggest benefit: Smooth flexible fabric; no rigid parts
  • Biggest drawback: Might be less supportive if wet or drenched in sweat
  • Current Price: $69.99
  • Link at RoadRunner Sports
This Scoopback bra is essentially the same as the Crossback bra I reviewed above. It's made from the same material: very silky and soft with no rigid parts. The main differences are that the Scoopback bra has adjustable straps and adjustable back clasps. The back clasps have 4 different settings! Also, the Scoopback fits my D cup much better than the Crossback. I got both bras in a size 32C/D, but the Crossback one seems to be made for a C cup, whereas the Scoopback seems to be made for a D cup. Thus, I prefer the Crossback.

I wore the Scoopback bra for a 7-mile run in cool weather, so I didn't really put it to the test. Will it chafe at longer distances? Will it lose its structure if I was soaked in sweat in the summer? I love that it's not rigid, but the negative aspect of that is that it could lose its supportiveness when wet. This is the challenge of finding a good sports bra! As you can see, this one fits me better. I feel like I am kind of popping out of the Crossback above, and might not go running in it without a tank top over it. 

Brooks Dare Scoopback Bra
With sports bras going on and off the market, I think the Brooks Dare Scoopback, the Nike Fe/Nom Flyknit, and the Anita Air Control Padded sports bras are the best options for D-cup runners today.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Virtual Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

This morning, Greg and I ran the Virtual Cherry Blossom 10-mile race. The race was canceled due to the coronavirus, but they offered a virtual option. The virtual option allows you to run 10 miles anywhere and submit your results to the race. On Tuesday, they will publish the results on their site.

I wore my bib from 2017

Initially, we were planning to run this race on the W&OD trail with our friend Amber. She's the one who ran the 10K with me a few weekends ago. But she lives in Maryland, and for obvious reasons did not feel comfortable traveling to Virginia for a virtual race. This made things easier logistically because it meant we could run on our local neighborhood route which is flatter and less crowded than the trail. Our neighborhood route has wide roads and plenty of real estate with no major intersections to cross. It does, however, involve a lot of weaving back and forth to cover a long distance:

Virtual Cherry Blossom Race Course

We did an out-and-back on this course so it would be "fair" from an elevation standpoint. We also said we would run 10.04 miles so it would reflect the actual distance of a 10-mile race. This route is made up of gentle inclines. There are no flat portions but the inclines and declines are not steep. There is one long hill and a few very short hills; everything else I would classify as an incline or decline. According to Strava it has a total elevation gain of 185 feet. Also according to Strava, the Cherry Blossom 10-mile course has a total elevation gain of 93 feet. So our route was about twice as hilly.

I should also note that these turns are not sharp; there is plenty of room to turn like how you would on a track. It was nice not having to worry about tangents!

My official10-mile PR was 1:09:54 from 2019, so that was the time to beat. However, I had covered the 10-mile distance as fast a 1:09:06 during a half marathon, so I really wanted to beat that time.

Before the Race
We treated race morning like we would any race morning. We both wore bibs, I had half a bagel with peanut butter. I drank a serving of Generation UCAN 30 minutes before we started. We left the house at 7:05 for a target start time of 7:30. It took us about 5 minutes to drive to our start line, and then we warmed up for a little over a mile. I wore my adidas Adios 5 shoes, which are the same shoes I wore in the 10K time trial. I debated wearing the Vapofly Next%, but I realized I got those mainly to be more competitive and it wasn't worth the injury risk on a virtual race.

It was 43 degrees at the start and sunny, warming to about 49 by the end. Winds were about 4-5 mph and noticeable in some areas. Thankfully, it seemed that any headwind I encountered was also on a downhill portion. On my personal race weather scale, I give it a 9 out of 10. To have gotten a 10, it would have either needed to have been overcast or 5 degrees cooler. Obviously, I am not complaining. A 9 is pretty darn good!

After the warm up, we were both wishing for porta potties, but there was nothing around. Ironically, there were bathrooms all around us. . . but they were inside strangers' houses! After taking a final swig of water, we locked the car and were ready to go, right on time at 7:30. Neither of us carried water or took any fuel during this run. I made sure to hydrate really well on Friday and Saturday, using Generation UCAN Hydrate.

Miles 1-3
The race started and Greg shot out ahead, as I knew he would. I thought he was capable of running a sub 6:40 pace based on his training. My plan was to start at a pace of around 7:00 and gradually get faster, resulting in a negative split. On my home turf, I know this course VERY well as I run it at least twice a week. I knew that the first two miles would be net uphill, so starting on the slower side would be especially important. I focused on keeping it controlled and relaxed. Normally the first two miles of a 10-mile race feel relatively easy and sustainable, but these first two miles felt like 10-mile effort right from the start!

Mile 1: 7:02
Mile 2: 6:56
Mile 3: 6:52

Miles 4-7
That 6:52 mile for mile 3 was a little faster than planned, but I just went with it. I knew that miles 4 and 5 would both be net downhill, so I expected my pace to get faster without having to exert much more effort. I ditched my gloves during the 4th mile. I tried to throw them into a bush, but they landed on the sidewalk and I hoped they would still be there when I got back. For a split second, I had the urge to stop the Garmin and move them, but then I remembered this was a race and I couldn't stop!

It was hard to motivate myself. I had to continually repeat "it counts" and if I set a PR it would count as a real PR. It would have been so easy to stop with nobody around! The mental game was so critical here as I had no crowds cheering for me, and no other runners to compete with. It was just me and my mind, all alone in this virtual race.

When I got to what should have been the turn around based on my mapping tool, my Garmin read 4.9 so I just kept going until it was the halfway point based on my Garmin. Shortly before turning around, I saw Greg, who was over a minute ahead of me at this point. I knew he was totally crushing it and was going to PR. Miles 4 and 5 were net downhill, so I knew it was going to get harder once I turned around. I held it together for mile 6, clocking in at 6:55, but mile 7 was pretty rough and I felt like I was fading at 7:04.

I was hoping that the people out walking their dogs would notice two fast runners wearing bibs and running really hard in the middle of the street and cheer for us. But no such luck. People basically just ignored us. And probably some people were annoyed by us.

Mile 4: 6:54
Mile 5: 6:50
Mile 6: 6:55
Mile 7: 7:04

Miles 8-Finish
I had a choice: I could just coast my way to the finish time, not PR but still get a respectable time, or I could really push and see what I could do. I decided I was going to really push. Mile 8 is the mile with the "one long hill" I mentioned earlier. It starts with a nice downhill but then the uphill seems to go on forever. I knew going into it that mile 8 would be the hardest, so I tried not to look at my Garmin and focus on pushing my way up that hill. I was so gassed and clocked in at 7:10, but with only two miles left, both of which were net downhill, I told myself I could recover and maybe still PR.

Approaching the finish
At this point, my Garmin average pace read "6:59" which would have been a tie with my PR. So I knew that all I had to do was get those last two miles under 6:59 and I would be golden. But I wasn't sure if I could. I was so exhausted and everything hurt. Being on my home turf helped because I knew exactly how far away I was from the finish and I just needed to stay strong for a little while longer. When I hit 6:59 for mile 9, I knew I just had to run one mile as hard as I could and the PR could still be mine. So that is exactly what I did. I really rallied and gave it my all, and ran a 6:51 final mile.

As I was closing in on the finish line, I saw Greg approaching with my phone, and he snapped some photos of me. I can't believe he had enough time to finish, unlock the car, get the phone, and then position himself there!

After my watch beeped, I kept going for a little bit, as the goal was 10.04, but ended up stopping at 10.02 because I mis-judged the distance. Oh well! I was actually quite pleased when I realized that my Garmin also measured 10.02 for the 2019 Cherry Blossom race, which held my PR.

Mile 8: 7:10
Mile 9: 6:59
Mile 10: 6:51

After the Race
My official time for 10.02 miles was 1:09:46, which is an 8-second PR for a 10-mile race! And Greg ran 1:06:40. That is a huge PR for him! I knew he could do it though.

Greg and I drove the car to get my gloves, which were right where I had left them, and then cooled down for nearly a mile. I was so happy to be done and I was glad that I pushed myself at the end to run faster than I did last year.

Final Thoughts, Stats, and Takeaways
For the fun of it (or maybe to antagonize myself) I looked back at the three half marathons in which I ran faster than 1:09:46 for 10 miles. And then I added 8 seconds onto each of them because it took me 8 seconds to go the extra 0.02 today (I was sprinting at that point).

October 2019 Columbus: 1:09:32
November 2019 Indianapolis: 1:09:14
March 2020 One City: 1:09:29

According to Strava, my best 10-mile effort is 1:08:45. I assume that is miles 2-11 of Indianapolis, as opposed to 1-10 as I recorded above. And adding the 8 seconds, that would be 1:08:53. So I know what I am capable of. I just need the right day. And that could have been today if the race wasn't canceled.

So even though today's 1:09:46 is my fastest time for a 10-mile race, I am having trouble really seeing it as a PR because I have covered this distance faster in the past. . . three times! And then I start to wonder, if the race hadn't been canceled, and I had the opportunity to run a faster course with competition, would I then maybe have run my fastest 10.02 miles?

Looking at the big picture, I know that all of these times are within 6 months of each other, so I shouldn't expect to be getting that much faster. But part of me still feels like I am hitting a plateau and I need to do something different if I want to really breakthrough and run 1:08:xx. I think that thing is strength training. Over the past two months, I have been doing more strength training than I usually do, but it's mostly core work and I think I need to be more consistent and follow a more structured plan. The summer will be a great time to do that.

I really have no excuses now, since I don't have to commute to and from work. I could easily take a 20-minute break from work to go in basement and strength train.

A note on the shoes: my feet started to hurt during that 8th mile and I was wishing I wore my older pair of adios- the version 4. I wore the adios 4 for the One City Half and my feet felt great the whole time, but the version 5 stopped feeling good 8 miles in today.

Overall, I'm really proud with my effort level and that I simply went out there and got it done. Yes, I probably would have run faster in an actual race. And yes, I would have liked to have beaten those half marathon 10-mile times. But I gave a lot out there on the empty streets all by my lonesome, battling thoughts of "Does this even matter? Does this even count?"

We will have PR cake tonight, with Greg's PR in bigger numbers than mine. While I do think I can officially call this a PR, it just doesn't feel like one knowing that I have run that distance faster. But that's not what is most important: PRs are NOT what is most important! What is most important is everything I said above: my effort, the fact that I got out there, and the fact that I really crushed that last mile.

Up next: I think I am doing a 5K time trial, but I'm not 100% certain on that yet!